The Kingsway Theatre is located at 3030 Bloor St W (just west of Royal York Rd on the north side) in The Kingsway neighbourhood of Toronto.
The Architecture of the Kingsway Theatre
Built in 1939, the Art Deco-style theatre features a two-storey south facade with buff brick cladding and trim. The box office is flanked by entrance doors and shops in the centre of the lower storey. The bulb-lite marquee curves outward, sheltering the box office and entrances.
On the second storey of the World War II-era theatre, there are six brick pilasters (rectangular columns that project partially from the wall) with cast stone capitals. The capitals, along with the centred parapet, extend past the roofline. Also, on each end of the second-storey facade are faux metal buttresses.
Today, fastened to the second storey of the facade is a neon sign, “KINGSWAY,” which also showcases the movies being shown; however, when originally built, there were two of these signs. They were angled and fastened to the curved marquee. The capacity of the theatre when it first opened was 700 seats.
Part of the Festival Cinemas
In 1982, the Kingsway Theatre underwent a major renovation when it became part of Festival Cinemas. The updates included a new sound system, Art Deco lamps were refurbished, neon tubing around the ornate auditorium ceiling was replaced, and a pink neon sign was added to the candy counter. New seats were also installed, and the capacity was reduced to 670. The main, single-screen auditorium featured repertory and arthouse films.
A smaller 28-seat theatre called the Nostalgic was opened on the second floor. It screened older westerns, comedies, musicals and dramas.
One of the Festival Cinemas chain operators, Peter McQuillan, wanted to give patrons great entertainment at a low price while recapturing the theatre’s classic style. During the 1982 reopening and for a limited time, patrons could purchase a membership to the theatre for $5.00. With the membership, admission to a movie was 99¢, and for non-members, it was $1.99.
During a second remodel of the Kingsway in 1999, the theatre’s capacity was decreased to 300 seats.
The Festival Cinemas chain included the Kingsway, Paradise, Revue, Royal and Fox. In 2004, Mr McQuillan passed away. Two years later, the chain collapsed, and while the Fox remained open (separate ownership), the Paradise, Royal, Revue and Kingsway were shuttered.
Heritage & the Kingsway’s Comeback
In 2008, the theatre received heritage designation from the Ontario Heritage Trust.
Before the Kingsway could reopen, the theatre needed some attention. Its new operator, Rui Pereira, had new carpet installed, made the theatre wheelchair accessible, added new front doors, newly upholstered seats and more. After being closed for 2½ years, the historic gem reopened.
Today, the 80+-year-old landmark nabe (neighbourhood) cinema has an atmosphere that harkens back to yesteryear. It features the occasional blockbuster, along with foreign films and documentaries. Visit the Kingsway Theatre website for more information.
Kingsway Neighbourhood History
In the early 1900s, Robert Home Smith purchased vast amounts of land on each side of the Humber River. His company mapped out thirteen subdivisions based on the ‘garden city movement’ method. This was an urban planning method where communities are surrounded by green space and contained balanced areas of residences, industry and agriculture.
Kingsway Theatre Photos
- Ontario Heritage Trust: 3030 Bloor St W
- Kingsway Theatre (Rui Pereira)
- Toronto.com: ETOBICOKE: Kingsway Theatre reopens
- Britannica: Garden city
- Toronto Star Newspaper Archives: Apr 6, 1982
- Toronto Star Newspaper Archives: Jan 30, 2009, page E11
- Vintage & Interior Photos: City of Toronto Archives & Kingsway Theatre
- Toronto City Directory 1941 courtesy of Toronto Public Library